“You can’t effectively teach anything to students who are asleep.”
In a breezy, yet highly practical, book on engaging today’s college students, first-time author — but long-time lecturer — Mike Kowis does an outstanding job of showing the “right” way to keep student attention high while imparting important knowledge about a potentially dry subject such as business law — his specialty.
Just like his classes, Kowis keeps the tone of this fact-filled primer deceptively light while delivering uncommon value to anyone who has ever stood before a class full of “show-me” students who, if you don’t fulfill their expectations, will burn you in post-semester critiques.
No worries there for Professor Kowis. These pages are liberally laced with undisguised admiration for his ability to hold his classes in thrall over the course of a three-hour night class.
His 44 practical tips range from ribald to reassuring as he imparts his hard-won wisdom from teaching courses at a major junior college in Texas for fifteen years. They’re practical pearls that can liven up even the most tedious curriculum.
Here’s a sample:
“Tell Adult Jokes and Funny Stories.” One semester a late-arriving student was greeted with the words: “Welcome to Sex Education 101.”
Another time Kowis intentionally farted on a student in the hallway. Thus, another tip: “Don’t Pass Gas on Students!”
Pro Tip 3: “Wear a Zany Hat or Costume,” suggests that an instructor teaching Hamlet should come to class in Elizabethan garb.
And another unique tip that elicits plenty of right answers to random review questions: “Give Candy Bribes to Encourage Attendance.”
There are plenty of other more serious tips and correlated commentary that can come in very handy — particularly to new profs. Among them:
- “Don’t Make Fun of Students’ Names”
- “Give Praise Often”
- “Memorize Each Student’s Name,” and
- “Remind Students of Semester Progress”
Kowis also advocates such unusual (to most educators) actions as calling a student who has missed class to find out if something is wrong. And, he feels that mingling with students in the hallway or in the commons area creates a bit of student-teacher rapport.
“Socializing with your students may sound like a waste of time, but it’s a great way to show that you genuinely care about them,” he says.
Stepping out of my book reviewer mode, I will share a little insight. Before I began reviewing books, I taught as part of the adjunct faculty at two major universities and a community college. I sincerely wish I had had the benefit of reading Prof. Kowis’ tips before fumbling my way through my first class.
In fact, I’ll add one of my own tips to the pantheon: “Never Let Them Catch You Unprepared.” First of all, not having a well-thought-out lesson plan is a recipe for professorial disaster. And, second, students can smell fear just like dogs. You owe them your very best for their hard-earned tuition dollars.
Mike Kowis has written a five-star, articulate guide to what instructors need to do — and not do — to gain respect and admiration from their students. It’s a truly inspiring and yet practical guide for both new teachers and those who have been in front of students on a daily basis for years.
I will add one final evaluation to the dozens outlined in the book. Good job, Mr. Kowis.
— Don Sloan, writing for Publishers Daily Reviews